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Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Holiday Gift Guide for the eco-friendly lady in your life

With Christmas just around the corner it’s time to start looking for that perfect gift. If you yourself are an eco-friendly shopper or the lady you’re shopping for is – here are some great gift ideas that are green and tools makeup brush set

(above) My first pick, and one that I actually own myself, is an Eco Tools brush set. Every lady needs a good brush set and I for one hate brushes that are stiff and scratchy to the skin. Eco Tools brushes are soft and made from synthetic taklon bristles. The handles are made of bamboo and the ferule is made of recycled aluminum. The brush bundle is on holiday special for only 40 bucks and features 9 brushes and a collector’s brush roll.

touch up make up brush set eco tools

(above) They also have a range of smaller sets like their touch-up set, only 9.99 comes with 4 brushes and a pouch to keep them in – very handy for on-the-go. (more…)

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

You are what you eat: are the bacteria in your gut influencing what you eat this holiday season?

man food shopping

Many of us looked forward to that Thanksgiving meal and those December holiday cravings are starting to kick in. I, for one, found myself wondering why we have cravings for certain comfort foods. So I took a peek into the possible reasons for our cravings and the leading one may surprise you.

Firstly, we need to understand how our gut works. After the mechanical manipulation of chewing, food lands in the gut for a nice acid bath and digestion. Monitoring the whole thing is the ENS, enteric nervous system, which is an extensive network of neurons regulating: fluid exchange, blood flow, gut movement , physical condition and information about the gastrointestinal tract. The ENS in turn communicates to our brain via the vagus nerve through the secretion of hormones like peptide YY and cholecystokinin to tell us when we are full.

Now it’s time to get to the issue of cravings. For a long time people believed that our bodies would get cravings for foods that we needed. But new research is finding that the microbial life forms that live in our gut might be influencing our eating habits to best suit them. This sounds iffy at best but when you consider that in our bodies bacteria cells outnumber our own 10 to 1 it seems reasonable to say they are having an effect on us.

So when I dig into my Thanksgiving Day baked yams I’m not only feeding me, but also all the bacteria inside me. Keeping the bacteria happy and healthy is just as important to good bodily function as keeping me healthy and happy. But, can my bacteria be influencing my habits? (more…)

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Monday, December 1, 2014

15 Tips to Prevent Premature Aging of Skin

woman applying face cream

A person starts to age from the moment he or she is conceived. Growing old is a normal part of life and there is no way to stop or reverse this process. Men and women get extremely anxious about their age after a certain age and worry about wanting to looking young while aging gracefully.

It is easy to get caught up in your life and forget about maintaining your looks and health. Modern lifestyle is fast-paced which entails a lack of proper rest and nutrition, dearth of physical activity, as well as smoking and drinking. Such a lifestyle can take a toll on your health and make you look much older than your real age.

Premature aging hinders the process of aging gracefully. It refers to the earlier-than-normal appearance of the signs of aging such as sagging skin, fine lines, wrinkles, uneven skin tone, dark spots, and dryness.

With proper and timely care and attention, however, premature aging of the skin can be prevented. Here are a few tips for that.

1. Eat Healthy
Eating fresh, healthy, and balanced meals contributes to the overall well-being of a person. Foods which are rich in anti-oxidants, vitamins, fatty oils, can do your skin a world of good as it depends on nutritious food to glow naturally.

For a healthy body and a supple skin, include vegetables, fruits, lentils, whole grains, olive oil, and nuts in your diet. Avoid sugar, processed food, and simple carbohydrates.

runner stretching

2. Exercise Is a Must
One cannot stress enough the importance of exercising (as opposed to over-exercising) when it comes to preventing premature aging of skin. Indulging in physical activity on a regular basis is one of the most effective and natural ways to prevent aging.

Make sure you exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, for 6 days in a week to see the difference.

3. Sleep Well
When you sleep, your body starts repairing and restoring damaged cells. If you don’t get adequate sleep, your body starts to produce excess cortisol, which is a hormone that breaks down skin cells.

Getting sufficient beauty sleep ensures that you get ample rest and your body gets enough time to heal itself, part of which results in an increased elasticity in your skin, making it less likely to wrinkle.

4. Moisturize Much
The appearance of your skin is largely determined by how hydrated it is. This is why skin experts always talk about drinking plenty of water and moisturizing every day. Both these elements leave you with softer, smoother skin.

Applying body lotion right after a bath (when the skin is till damp) helps as the skin can absorb the moisture better that way.

Pick a moisturizer/lotion depending on your skin type.

woman on beach

5. Wear Sunscreen
Prolonged exposure to the harmful UV rays from the sun is the leading cause of skin damage and that includes premature aging. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself:

  • Wear sunscreen with SPF 15 (or more) every day, even if you’re planning to stay indoors. Apply it at least 30 minutes prior to stepping out in the sun for maximum benefit.
  • Avoid the sun between 10am and 3pm, which is when it is the strongest.
  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes, and a large hat with a brim to cover your face.

6. Don’t Smoke
Smoking not only shortens your life, it also wreaks havoc with your skin. Apart from that, it also contributes to the discoloration of the skin, lips, teeth, and nails, which can only make one look unattractive.

As much as possible, avoid both – primary as well as secondary smoke.

7.  Don’t Drink
Drinking too much alcohol can result in broken blood vessels. These may start appearing near your skin’s surface causing you to appear older than you may be. It also damages the liver, which hinders it from flushing out the toxins from your body as effectively as it could.

You will do well to cut back on your drinking or giving it up entirely as the benefits will mirror themselves in your health and skin.

yoga pose

8. Keep Stress Away
Stress can often result in a lack of sleep, or make you resort to smoking and drinking to escape it. As already mentioned, these are unhealthy habits which can contribute to making you look old and wrinkled. Beat stress with a hobby, meditation, yoga and deep breathing.

9. Don’t Over-Wash
Tap water may contain salts and chemicals which can strip your skin of its natural oils and moisture resulting in the development of early wrinkles. While washing your face with a good cleanser suited to your skin type is essential, over-washing it could mean washing away your skin’s natural defenses.

10. Indulge in Facials
Indulging in skin-friendly facials every now and then could make a big difference in the way your skin looks and feels. You need not spend a bomb on it, though. A simple 30-minute facial which includes cleansing, exfoliating (with a gentle facial scrub), a hydrating facemask, steaming and moisturizing should do the trick!

11. Keep Warm in Winters
Cold temperature and winds can rob your skin of its natural moisture and can make it dry, irritated and rough. Make it a point to use a scarf to protect your face when out in the cold. Further, invest in a good moisturizer.

12. Use Good Makeup
Most of us experiment with various beauty products before deciding which ones suit us best. High-quality cosmetics are expensive and experimenting with them can pinch your pocket. It is best to look for freebies or testers of such products and try those to help you decide which ones to buy.

13. Don’t Torment Your Skin
Avoid pulling, rubbing your skin, or any other activity that can cause trauma to it. Aging skin is sensitive and already subjected to UV rays, pollution and stress. I’m sure it doesn’t need any more of it.

be happy

14. Be Happy
Do the things you like and surround yourself with people who make you happy and watch your skin glow.

15. Consult Your Dermatologist
Consulting your dermatologist from time to time about maintaining the health of your skin can help prevent its premature aging.

By following the above tips and making simple changes to your lifestyle, you can ensure that you preserve your youthful looks and continue to minimize the signs of aging.

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Alternatives to Antibiotics

Since they were introduced in the early 1900s, antibiotics have been used heavily in the treatment of bacterial infections, and have saved millions of lives. Unfortunately, today, antibiotics have gone from being lifesavers to potential threats.

Doctors tend to over-prescribe antibiotics as a means of treating illnesses that could be bacterial, but are often not. This is a problem on several levels.

Another issue is that antibiotics are not completely harmless. Like all drugs, antibiotics can have their fair share of side-effects, some of them dangerous.

For example, the antibiotic Avelox causes several side effects that can be serious, and even life threatening. These side effects can include convulsions, peripheral neuropathy, photosensitivity, and even psychotic reactions. In fact, the instances of peripheral neuropathy have been so prevalent that there are several class action lawsuits in the works, which you can learn more about here.

Get a Second Opinion
If your doctor has prescribed medication to treat cold or flu symptoms, such as head and chest congestion, or a cough, you should get a second opinion. As we stated before, antibiotics are only effective in treating bacterial infections. Some viral infections can become bacterial, but it’s best to have the doctor do a culture to detect the presence of bacteria.

Alternatives to Antibiotics
Wait for it To Resolve
Some bacterial infections don’t need antibiotic therapy.

For example, bacterial sinus infections will often resolve on their own over time, and antibiotics don’t really make much difference.

While you are waiting for the illness to resolve, you can use over-the-counter and natural remedies to treat your symptoms, including:

  • Homeopathic remedies to treat runny nose and congestion;
  • Over-the-counter pain killers for body aches;
  • Hot and cold compresses over the eyes to treat sinus headaches and congestion;
  • Neti pots or nasal irrigation to flush the sinuses;
  • Eucalyptus chest rubs;
  • Steam;
  • Room humidifiers; and
  • Plenty of rest.

Try a Natural Antibiotic
The first antibiotic was made from a naturally-occurring mold. That natural mold was then synthesized in a lab to create penicillin, and from that technology came all of the other antibiotic drugs in use today. However, molds aren’t the only source of natural antibiotics. In fact, there are several herbs and foods that have antibacterial properties, and can help you treat minor infections.

Consult an Alternative Medicine Practitioner
Herbalists, naturopaths, and other alternative medicine practitioners often have treatments that can help relieve your symptoms, and even resolve the actual infection without antibiotics or other drugs.

Things to Consider
While it is possible to treat some infections on your own, without mainstream medical intervention, there are times when you should consider seeing a doctor and taking antibiotics:

  • If you have a fever that persists for several days;
  • If your heart rate is increased;
  • If your notice fast or shallow breathing;
  • If you have an infected injury and the area around the injury is inflamed with red streaks radiating out from it;
  • If you have difficulty thinking or concentrating; and
  • If you notice pain and stiffness in your neck.

These could be a sign that the infection is worsening, or that it is spreading to other areas of your body. In severe cases, you could develop sepsis, which can affect multiple organ systems, or the infection could spread to the brain and the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

Both sepsis and infections in and around the brain are potentially life-threatening.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Nutritional Skincare at Whole Foods – a tried and true review

full disclosure: Whole Foods provided me with three complimentary ACURE ORGANICS products to test for the purposes of this Tried and True Green Products Review. I’ve really enjoyed using the cleanser, toner and facial cream for the past several weeks … here’s my review.

acure Moisturizer

I’m one of those people who likes to take care of my skin – with kindness, and as little fuss as possible. As we all know skin changes over time. So the products we choose to care for our skin change, too. Years ago, I used products designed to treat oily or normal to combination skin. These days I seek out non-toxic products that are intended for dry or sensitive skin. Whether it’s the skin on my face, torso or limbs, I try to provide the best everyday protection and moisturizing possible.


Acure Organics is a US-based, Fair Trade and family-owned company that uses 100% nature-based and 70% certified organic ingredients in the creation of their extensive lines of skincare and haircare products. They take a “feed your skin” approach to beauty:  “ACURE for the skin means driving real results through simple, plant and food-based ingredients. Feeding it as properly as you would feed your body internally is the only way to truly optimize its function. We formulate using the same powerful nutrients that you would eat, fueling your skin through nutrition-based skin care. It’s like supplements for the skin! Clinically proven result without the use of gluten, synthetic preservatives or fragrances. No parabens, sulfates, phthalates, petrochemicals, or animal bi-products. We provide scientific nutritional support to enhance the skin’s own ability to regenerate optimally.”

acureCleansersHere’s the easy 3-step skincare routine that I’ve been following recently, thanks to ACURE ORGANICS:

  • Fragrance Free Sensitive Facial Cleanser … I simply splash water on my face, dab on a bit of cream, massage and rinse. Skin feels really smooth and clean – no filmy residue. The ingredient list on all of these products is spelled out in lay terms, which is awesome. Natural Vitamin E, Fatty Alcohol, Sugar Soap, Sugar Gum, in addition to a slew of organic ingredients, like: chamomile, acai, blackberry, coconut oil, olive oil, argan oil, pumpkin seed oil and even CoQ10 (more…)
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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Let the EWG Seafood Calculator Determine the Best Seafood for You

circling school of fish

Most people know the health benefits from regularly including fish and other seafood in their diets; they provide us with the essential, long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. A third, short-chain form of Omega-3 is found in several plant seeds and nuts, but the forms found in seafood are proven to have more effective health benefits. On the other hand, there are opposite reports of the health risks associated with eating seafood due to an increase of toxic mercury levels in the world’s oceans. In fact, a recent study concluded that in “ocean waters shallower than about 100 meters… have tripled in mercury concentration since the Industrial Revolution.” Emissions from coal fired power plants, smelting, cement manufacturing and certain mining activities are only some of the industries contributing to a unnatural amount of airborne mercury, which is eventually deposited in water bodies around the world, infecting marine life. So while the Omega-3 fatty acids found in seafood are essential to our health, harmful levels of mercury could accompany them. Luckily, the cost – benefit analysis between these two traits in different species of fish has been spelled out in a quick and pleasing “seafood calculator” from Environmental Working Group. (more…)

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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Natural Remedies for Mole Removal

Moles usually make an appearance early in life, but can continue to grow and change over time. They can either occur individually or in small clusters anywhere on the skin. Moles result from several skin cells growing in a cluster rather than being spread out. The close nature of the cells means the pigment of each is in close proximity, resulting in their dark color. There are some natural treatments that may help. Here are just a few of them: (Note it can take several weeks, possibly up to two months to see results so be patient and consistent with your chosen methods.)

apple cider vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a really popular natural remedy for a variety of skin issues because of its acidic nature, which can help ‘burn’ off moles and other skin growths. Apple cider vinegar can be quite strong, and if you have sensitive skin, it may be a good idea to dilute it a bit with water before applying to the skin. Put some on a cotton ball and apply to the mole a few times a day. If you are concerned about the odor, have no fear. The smell completely disappears once the vinegar evaporates.

Garlic is so much more than a tasty addition to food; it has a variety of properties that give it many useful health applications. It is a popular internal remedy for enhancing the immune system and purifying the blood. As far as external use, it contains enyzmes that help break down the clusters of skin cells that cause growths such as moles, warts and skin tags. It can also lighten the pigmentation of moles. Cut open a clove of garlic and rub the juice on the skin two to three times a day.

Iodine is most commonly used as an internal natural remedy to regulate a variety of hormones, namely the ones of the thyroid. But, it also a popular treatment for moles. When used topically, it penetrates the deeper layers of the mole, effectively ‘dissolving’ it over time.

If you are interested in getting  rid of those skin moles using homeopathy, some of the most popular treatments include Calendula officinalis 12C, Phytolacca decandra 12C, Thuja occidentalis 12C. These ingredients are usually combined with essential oils that are good for the skin, and lesion removal specifically. When going this route, make sure you are using products that are manufactured in accordance with the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States (HPUS.) This ensures effective formulations with high-quality ingredients.

Fig Stem Juice
Fig is probably best known as an internal remedy for constipation, but the stem juice in particular is commonly used as a topical treatment for various types of skin issues, from moles to infections. You need to take some stems and blend them to get the juice. Apply it to the mole three to four times a day.

Pineapple Juice
Pineapple juice is rich in enzyme that help break down skin cells, making it a great treatment for moles. Juice some fresh pineapples and apply it to a cotton ball and put on the skin twice a day. Not only will you have a great remedy for moles, but a nice, healthy, delicious drink!
Dandelion Stem Juice
Dandelion is a popular ingredient in products used for blood purifying, liver cleansing and overall detox, but also has applications for topical treatments as well. It is a very popular remedy for moles and other skin growths because many people find it works relatively quickly compared to other treatments. Take a dandelion leaf or flower and squeeze the stem—a milky liquid will come out and you can apply this directly to the mole. Let it dry. Do this three to four times daily. If you have an allergy to marigolds, chrysanthemums, daisies or other plants in this family, or to ragweed, you may be allergic to dandelion so use with caution.

Getting rid of moles naturally is possible, but you have to be patient. The bigger the mole, the longer it will take. Just keep using your treatments, and know you may have to experiment with different remedies.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

A Green Spa Experience to Remember


Finding myself in San Francisco for a conference, I decided to arrive a day early and explore a spa experience in Freestone which is about 65 miles outside of the city. The thought of “dropping out” for the day to “drop in” on myself was very appealing.

The Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary is a green and sustainable property. The owner, Michael Stusser is a leader in the sustainable movement. It was 25 years ago that he made a commitment to creating a green spa – one that resonates with nature. A founding member of the Green Spa Network, Michael is forward thinking and envisions that spas will be both the wellness and spiritual centers of the future.

tea garden at duskI entered the small building and was met by the intoxicating scent of essential oils. The staff was delightful and Jordan offered to take me on a tour of the property. Towering bamboo hugged a wooden gate that when opened took my breath away. The thought came to mind, “Debra, you are not in Kansas anymore.” I was transported to an extraordinary place, one that bespeaks transformation. The Japanese garden, native plantings, waterfalls, fountain, rock gardens and stream were designed to embrace individuals as they reflect and decompress.

After my tour I was escorted to a creek-side Pagoda and it was there that I received an aromatherapy massage and scalp treatment. Thanks to Consuelo, I was now uber-relaxed. My delicious vegetarian lunch and freshly brewed tea were served in a private enclave overlooking rustic plantings with dramatically beautiful scenery. It was now time for my Sound Therapy session. Suspended in a hammock overlooking a garden I listen to music that was composed specifically to balance the brain. I was drifting away in a state of euphoria when I sensed someone sitting nearby. The practitioner patiently waited for me to notice her and introduce herself. I scheduled for a guided meditation session. Daidie guided me through my past, my present and my future. For me it was a cleansing of the spirit and soul. I experienced a shift within and felt light and happy.

One treatment I did not have a chance to experience was the Cedar Enzyme Bath. Osmosis is the only spa in the United States that offers this unique service which originates in Japan. The hot wood chip bath is used to treat arthritis, the immune system and other body systems. Definitely on my list for my next visit!

Most of us are living a high pressured, tightly scheduled and high-tech lifestyle. It is important to quiet the mind and body and take time to connect, not electronically but energetically, to the nurturing essence of Mother Nature.  Thank you Osmosis for a blissful day!

Debra Duneier is an accredited LEED® Green Associate, Certified Eco-Designer, Feng Shui Master Practitioner, Creator of EcoChi® and an award winning Author of EcoChi: Designing the Human Experience.

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